[UPDATED] Starting out as an independent artist is a huge challenge, and positioning yourself for success requires careful planning. Here we look at five marketing and general business tactics that can help guide DIY artists in the right direction.
Guest post by Brian Reitz of Max
Previously MAX has outlined ways artists and their managers can prepare for brand partnerships, an evolved version of music advertising that we believe will simplify marketing for brands and artists while simultaneously improving the fan experience.
While MAX generally works directly with artists’ managers to execute brand partnerships, many artists choose to manage themselves or have not yet reached the point of their career trajectory when they need someone to manage them.
Here are a few marketing and general business tactics for artists who either do not have a label deal, or are self-managing.
1. Identify Opportunities to Get in Front of the Right People
American Idol ended its 15-year run last year, shutting the door on a popular path artists have taken toward launching careers in the music industry. Other major network talent shows still exist, most prominently America’s Got Talent, The Voice, and X Factor.
These competitions not only increase exposure to mass audiences, but possibly more importantly, they give artists access to music industry veterans who know how to maximize talents for sustained success.
Another competition, Unsigned Only, presents a strategic opportunity for emerging artists to get noticed by industry professionals.
Unsigned Only is a music competition designed for solo artists, bands, and singers all over the world who are looking for exposure, recognition, and a chance to be noticed by industry professionals. The goal of Unsigned Only is to find an outstanding, talented performer who is not signed to a major record label that needs to be discovered. Along with $150,000 in cash and prizes, including a $20,000 cash prize to the Grand Prize Winner, Unsigned Only offers the Grand Prize winner the opportunity to be mentored by a group of record company presidents, A&R reps, and more.
For more on the competition, including their impressive cast of judges, click here. Unsigned Only accepts original works and covers until April 28.
2. Make Sure You’re Affiliated With A PRO
Performance Rights Organizations (PROs) provide copyright protection and allow artists to efficiently receive royalty payments. We’ve talked in-depth about the importance (and challenges) of PROs before, but here’s a quick review:
In order to avoid infringement claims, a license is required between the party who desires to broadcast the work and the writer who controls the right of public performance.
However, if every radio station, venue, streaming service, etc. had to negotiate individual licenses with songwriters, it would obviously be a long, expensive, and difficult process.
These difficulties in issuing the necessary licenses at scale have been historically resolved by clearinghouse agencies known as Performance Rights Organizations (PROs). In the US, there are three main PROs: ASCAP, BMI, SESAC. These agencies issue so-called “Blanket Licenses” to any entity that desires to publicly perform copyrighted works: venues, radio stations, TV networks, restaurants, streaming services, etc.
3. Make Your Music Available
Some big artists withhold their catalogues from streaming services because of exclusive deals or ideological differences. For instance, Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, and Garth Brooks, who have or have had exclusivity deals with Apple Music, TIDAL, and Amazon, respectively.
Some might argue that artists of their clout can afford to withhold music from certain streaming services, but it’s generally more beneficial for emerging artists to distribute their music everywhere fans listen to music. Services like TuneCore and CD Baby can help with distribution. However, as a recent TechCrunch article noted, “there’s more music that has never been played on Spotify once than there are played songs.”
It’s hard enough to get noticed, so making music available is important. That’s where clever marketing comes in…
4. Form Strategic Partnerships With Other Artists
Work your hardest to own a market. For instance, if you’re a Chicago band, you should focus hard on playing as many shows as possible in Chicago to build a loyal following.
Meanwhile, while you’re building a strong fanbase in Chicago, locate artists you want to be associated with in another market; let’s say New York.
Make a deal where you open for them in New York, and when they come to Chicago, they open for you.
That way you’re leveraging each other’s fanbases without spreading yourselves too thin. How do you know where your fans are? According to Billboard, there are a few new platforms that can help you crowdsource tours:
- Fanbassador, which orchestrates presale ticket contests between cities
- RoadNation, which helps crowdfund gigs upfront
- Show4Me, which lowers risk for promoters and artists
These are useful, but they may not give you actionable information about your fans (which is something MAX can help with).
At its core, our business creates meaningful brand-artist partnerships with fan data. By starting with consumer preferences, we strive to empower artists and brands to collaborate to give fans what they want (more music, less “ads”). And in return, artists and brands get what they’re looking for as well- growth, engagement, and stronger connections with key audiences.
In that line of thinking, we’ve created a free tool that allows artists, managers, and labels to quickly collect and synthesize research about their fans
- Where are your fans located?
- What other artists should you collaborate or tour with?
- Are there any brands your fans really like?
- And more…
Instead of making gut decisions about where to tour or how to navigate the increasingly-connected commercial space, artists can rely on data from their biggest fans to guide them.
Have any questions about collecting fan research? Check out MAX’s How To Guide.